Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Investigating the Levels of File Backup and Storage for Genealogists -- Part One

The main idea of backing up your computer files is to make separate copies of your files in different venues, i.e. places where the files are stored. The primary device is the one creating the file. For example, you take a photographic image of your family at a reunion. If you use your digital camera (the primary device creating the image), the image is stored in the camera's memory or on a flash memory card (the venue). What happens if you lose your camera? You lose all the photos stored in your camera. What happens when you take enough photos to "fill up" the memory storage capacity of your device (either the camera's memory or the storage card)? You either have to erase some of the photos or transfer them to another venue (storage device). If you are using a storage card such as an SD Card, you could buy another card and replace the one in your camera.

If you did this, you might have one or more "full" SD cards stacked on your desk or in a drawer. Once again, if the card (which is very small) is lost, all of the photos are lost. Putting a fresh card in your camera just allows you to take more photos, it does not backup the photos already on the first SD Card.

You could, and should, connect your camera to your computer. Some computers, such as mine, have an SD slot available and all you have to do is take the card out of your camera and insert it into the slot and copy the photos onto your computer's hard drive. In other cases, you may need a cable or some special adapter to connect your camera to your computer to make a copy of your photos. Some newer cameras come with WiFi and you can transfer your photos to a folder on your computer without a visible, physical connection.

So now you have two copies of your photos; one on the original SD card and one on your computer. If you are like me, you then erase your SD card to use it again rather than buying an endless series of cards.

What happens if your computer crashes or the file is somehow lost. You are back to space one, you have lost all your photos. If you still have the full SD card, you could copy the photos over to your computer again. But if you have erased your SD card to reuse it in your camera, you have permanently lost your photos.

Now, let's focus on the photos you have copied to your computer. The photos are only a part of all the information that is on your computer from research to scanned images of documents and everything else you have been working on. Computer crashes are real. I have been through several over the years. OK, before I write about backing up your computer, let's start over again with your camera.

Let's suppose you are using your smartphone as a camera. This is a perfectly good option and from watching people at the Brigham Young University, I am guessing most people now rely more on their phones for photos than a separate camera. Your smartphone may or may not have a separate SD card memory. Let's assume it does not. If you love to take photos of yourself and your family, you will quickly fill up the memory of your smartphone. If your smartphone has an SD slot, you could buy a few of these memory storage cards. Hmm. We are right back where we were before.

However, with your smartphone, you have another option. You could simply upload your photos to some online photo storage provider. Many people upload their photos instantly to Facebook or Instagram. However, these are not really storage venues, they are social networking programs. They may "store" your photos, but what if you want to retrieve them from Facebook or Instagram (or some other website). Do you know how to do that?

This whole process seems to be getting pretty complicated. Oh, by the way, Facebook does have an option to download the photos. This means that you could end up with the photos on your own computer.

The idea here is that a "file" (in this example a photo) is created by a particular electronic device (in this extended example a digital camera or a smartphone) and then begins its progress to preservation and storage.  In future posts in this series, I will write about how the file is best preserved and stored.

Stay tuned.

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